An explanation of the origin of different religions in totem and taboo

All that we find there is a violent and jealous father who keeps all the females for himself and drives away his sons as they grow up. The earliest state of society has never been an object of observation. The most primitive kind of organisation that we actually come across - and one that is in force to this day in certain tribes - consists of bands of males; these bands are composed of members with equal rights and are subject to the restrictions of the totemic system, including inheritance through the mother. Can this form of organisation have developed out of the other one?

An explanation of the origin of different religions in totem and taboo

How can the crude cults of the Australian aborigines tell us anything about religions far more advanced in value, dignity, and truth?

These questions were important, for Durkheim recognized that scholars frequently focused on primitive religions in order to discredit their modern counterparts, and he rejected this "Voltairean" hostility to religion for two reasons.

First, alluding to the second chapter of The Rules, Durkheim insisted that such hostility was unscientific; it prejudges the results of the investigation, and renders its outcome suspect. Second, and more important, he considered it unsociological; for it is an essential postulate of sociology that no human institution can rest on an error or a lie.

If an institution is not based on "the nature of things," Durkheim insisted, it encounters a resistance in nature which destroys it; the very existence of primitive religions, therefore, assures us that they "hold to reality and express it. The reasons with which the faithful justify them may be, and generally are, erroneous; but the true reasons," Durkheim concluded, "do not cease to exist" and it is the duty of science to discover them.

Briefly, he did so for three "methodological" reasons. First, Durkheim argued that we cannot understand more advanced religions except by analyzing the way they have been progressively constituted throughout history; for only by placing each of the constituent elements of modern religions in the context within which it emerged can we hope to discover the cause which gave rise to it.

Strong reading: Sigmund Freud - "Totem and Taboo"

Just as biological evolution has been differently conceived since the empirical discovery of monocellular beings, therefore, religious evolution is differently conceived depending upon what concrete system of belief and action is placed at its origin.

Second, Durkheim suggested that the scientific study of religion itself presupposed that the various religions we compare are all species of the same class, and thus possess certain elements in common: These are the permanent elements which constitute that which is permanent and human in religion; they form all the objective contents of the idea which is expressed when one speaks of religion in general.

That which is accessory or secondary All is reduced to that which is indispensable to that without which there could be no religion. But that which is indispensable is also that which is essential, that is to say, that which we must know before all else.

An explanation of the origin of different religions in totem and taboo

But if this simplicity of primitive religions helps us to understand its nature, it also helps us to understand its causes. In fact, as religious thought evolved through history, its initial causes became overlaid with a vast scheme of methodological and theological interpretation which made those origins virtually imperceptible.

The study of primitive religion, Durkheim thus suggested, is a new way of taking up the old problem of the "origin of religion" itself -- not in the sense of some specific point in time and space when religion began to exist no such point existsbut in the sense of discovering "the ever-present causes upon which the most essential forms of religious thought and practice depend.

At the base of all our judgments, Durkheim began, there are a certain number of ideas which philosophers since Aristotle have called "the categories of the understanding" -- time, space, class, number, cause, substance, personality, and so on. They are like the solid frame which encloses all thought; this does not seem to be able to liberate itself from them without destroying itself, for it seems that we cannot think of objects that are not in time and space, which have no number, etc.

When primitive religious beliefs are analyzed, Durkheim observed, these "categories" are found, suggesting that they are the product of religious thought; but religious thought itself is composed of collective representations, the products of real social groups.

These observations suggested to Durkheim that the "problem of knowledge" might be posed in new, sociological terms.


Previous efforts to solve this problem, he began, represent one of two philosophical doctrines:Aug 14,  · Freud now returns to question the origins of totemism and exogamy, taking as his guide the overdetermination of psychic events to argue that any coherent explanation of their origins (as well as that of religion) must have both a historical and a psychological component.

Totemism: Totemism, system of belief in which humans are said to have kinship or a mystical relationship with a spirit-being, such as an animal or plant. The entity, or totem, is thought to interact with a given kin group or an individual and to serve as their emblem or symbol.

The term totemism has been. Understanding Evolution: History, Theory, Evidence, and Implications. By - March 5, Updated - May 2, Index. Introduction; Origin Mythology; Mesopotamian.

Background on Sigmund Freud

Generally, a totem is a symbol that is common to a group of people. Typically, members who are of the same totem are prohibited from breeding. In this book, Freud argues that these simplistic societies would simply have had no way of knowing the physiological effects of incest.

Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo is a book by the anthropologist and cultural theorist Mary is her best known work. In the Times Literary Supplement listed it as one of the hundred most influential non-fiction books published since It has gone through numerous reprints and re-editions (, , , , , ).

The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life () [Excerpt from Robert Alun Jones. Emile Durkheim: An Introduction to Four Major plombier-nemours.comy Hills, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., Pp. ].

Study of religion - Basic aims and methods |